Jamaica goes 4G LTE as Minister Paulwell prepares Third Data Telecom Provider entrant

“I believe that the price of Broadband (service) is too high. We want to see more competition…..to get those prices down . . . and (as such), I am going to bring in another (provider)”

Science, Technology, Energy, and Mining Minister Phillip Paulwell, speaking at the launch of a Vision 2050 Information Technology (IT) initiative at Oberlin High School in West Rural St Andrew on Thursday March 3rd 2014

Folks, the news is officially out: a Third Telecom Provider is on its way to begin building out their Telecom Network to provide Wireless Broadband Internet in Jamaica. So spoke Minister of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining Phillip Paulwell on Thursday March 3rd 2013, two days after April Fool’s Day, thus letting in Oberlin High School in West Rural St Andrew on what was looking like a really prolonged joke.


Additionally, after the Auction to sell off Block 13 and Block 17 of the 700 MHz Spectrum in a competitive Bidding process and later the WiMaX (Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access) and AWS (Advanced Wireless Services) Spectrum failed back in October 2013 and in November 2013 respectively, he’s finally decided to merely sell the Blocks of Spectrum to the two (2) incumbent Telecom Providers, LIME and Digicel  to provision 4G LTE (Long Term Evolution) Wireless Broadband.

The details of the sales are as follows:

  • US$30 million (JA$3.25 billion) for Telecom Provider LIME‘s AWS Band for their 4G LTE deployment

  • US$25 million (JA$2.73 billion) for Telecom Provider Digicel‘s Band 17 of the 700MHz for their 4G LTE deployment

In the process, the Government has netted a fine catch of Spectrum Licenses and payment for Spectrum currently being used, thus fulfilling his Ministry’s mandate and plugging a hole in our already leaky 2014/2015 Budget with revenues that are effectively from Fiscal Year 2013/2014:

  • Digicel has paid JA$5.48 billion  out a total of JA$9.36 billion in back License Fees

  • LIME has paid JA$1.53 billion out of a total of JA$3.29 billion in back License Fees

This is the same type of 4G LTE Network as mentioned in the Press Release from Head of Internal and External Communications at CWC (Cable & Wireless Communications), Steve Shepperson-Smith in Kelroy’s article Bahamas Upgraded to LTE Mobile Data. Speeds of 15 to 21 MBps are soon to greet us in the next two (2) years as explained in my article How to Access LIME or Digicel’s 3G Internet using an unlocked Huawei E1556 Modem Dongle or Nokia Modem Dongle.

In the process too, just like a sale of a Block of land, the Blocks of Spectrum was sold in a manner as to prevent any perception of anti-competitive behavior on the part of the Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining. Thus, the Incumbent Telecom Provider in Jamaica were offered the Spectrum most likely based on their past experiencing in provisioning their respective 3G Wireless Broadband Networks.

Blocks were sold consisting of Blocks of lower Spectrum to higher Frequency Spectrum, leaving the higher Bands fallow or Clean and Clear of Traffic. Thus these Spectrum Bands or Blocks are left to allow a Third Telecom Provider to enter what is effectively the Tree of Life in Jamaican for what to Telecom Providers is the equivalent of the Birth of Atlantis.

Spectrum Sale Primer – AWS vs 700 MHz for 4G LTE

To be specific, the following Blocks of Spectrum have been sold:

  • 2 Blocks of 12MHz Spectrum in Blocks 17 of the 700MHz Spectrum to Digicel

  • 50MHz Blocks of Spectrum in the 1700/2100 MHz Band typically referred to as AWS (Advanced Wireless Service) to LIME

The Blocks of Frequency within the 700MHz Band are composed as follows:

  • Band 17 made up of two (2) Blocks of 12 MHz Frequency each from 704 MHz to 716 MHz and 734 MHz to 746MHz

  • Band 13 made up of two (2) Blocks of 12 MHz Frequency each from 746 MHz to 758MHz and 776 MHz to 788MHz

The below Diagram shows a physical representation of the 700MHz Spectrum being allocated jointly by the OUR (Office of Utilities Regulation) and SMA (Spectrum Management Authority):

Jamaica goes 4G LTE

Both Spectrum Licenses for Band 17 and Band 13 are fifteen (15) years License for successful Bidders and were originally priced back in October 2013 as thus:

  • Band 17 Reserve price is US$45 million for a fifteen (15) years License

  • Band 13 Reserve price is US$40 million for a fifteen (15) years License

Currently, Digicel paid cash upfront as follows for their respective Blocks of Spectrum:

  • US$30 million (JA$3.25 billion) for LIME‘s AWS Band for their 4G LTE deployment

  • US$25 million (JA$2.73 billion) for Digicel‘s Band 17 of the 700MHz for their 4G LTE deployment

LIME’s Spectrum purchase is from a completely different portfolio of Spectrum that failed to take place back in November 2013. Specifically the Blocks of Spectrum up for grabs are as follows:

  1. 66 MHz in the 1800 MHz Band

  2. 92 MHz in the 1900 MHz Band

  3. 130 MHz in the 2.5/2.6 GHz Band

  4. 50 MHz in the 1700/2100 MHz Band

LIME has purchased 50MHz of unspecified Blocks of Spectrum in the 1700/2100 MHz Band. At those frequencies, they’ll face higher than normal levels of signal attenuation as this Spectrum are really more suited to provisioning High Bandwidth Data Services for:

  • WISP (Wireless Internet Service Providers) a point-to-point Data Service

  • AWS (Advanced Wireless Services)

With their Blocks of Spectrum just scratching the outer edge of WiMaX (Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access) Spectrum at 2.5/2.6 GHz Band and as such were 700 MHz Spectrum.

In a future series of article, I’ll explain in more detail the process of a Spectrum Auction as put on by the SMA (Spectrum Management Authority)!

Third Telecom Provider is Dekal Wireless – Broadband to the Masses in the Year of the Horse

As for the third Telecom Provider, sources close to the issue have told me that it may be Dekal Wireless as explained in Dekal Wireless – Broadband for the Masses, which ironically was the first article I’d written on the Geezam blog.  According to my sources, they’ve stuck some of deal with the Chinese Government and have thus decided to purchase Blocks of Spectrum in the AWS Band to:

  • Expand their Network coverage

  • Build a Bigger NOC (Network Operation) Center

  • Upgrade from Wi-Fi IEEE 802.11n with 300MBps theoretical capable speeds to Wi-Fi IEEE 802.11ac with 1GBps theoretical capable speeds

Already, Digicel has begun the process of building out a JA$600 million Underground Fiber Optic Network to handle the expected uptick in Traffic expected from the usage of a 4G LTE Network, with their Plans mostly geared at providing Business Grade Wireless Broadband Services to members of the ICT Sector in Kingston and Montego Bay.

DSO is coming – RJR Communication Group to launch UNIV Streaming Platforms by October 2014

RJR Communications Group, not taking chances of being caught off guard as it relates to the DSO (Digital Switch Over) which is slated for 2015 and the trend towards Streaming as explained in The Future of Free-to-Air Broadcasters in Jamaica as Digital Switch Over Approaches in 2015, have made an important announcement that’s worthy of its own article as well!

The RJR Communications Group has made a tentative partnership arrangement with Miami-based Unified Video Technologies (UNIV) to installation of their uVOD (video-on-demand) Platform to start the build-out of the DTT (Digital Terrestrial Television) System.

But what does this all this talk of a Spectrum Auction mean to the Typical Jamaican, who was never formally invited to the SMA (Spectrum Management Authority) had their Stakeholder Consultation Forum on the 700MHz Spectrum Auction at the Jamaica Conference Room in Caucus Room 2 at the Jamaica Conference Center on Tuesday September 10th 2013?

What exactly is the significance of the AWS and 700 MHz Blocks of Spectrum? And why do we need to upgrade to true 4G LTE? Isn’t 3G fast enough Broadband for Jamaicans, some Jamaicans might ask? More importantly forth technical buss, which is better, 700MHz or

More importantly, how will this change the lives of ordinary Jamaicans in Rural Jamaica? In a series of expose articles on Spectrum Licensing and the role of the SMA, I’ll explain it all without boring you to bits, including the connection to MNP (Mobile Number Portability), LNP (Landline Number Portability) and the NANP (North American Numbering Plan).

Exciting times people, despite the lack of fanfare from the Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining, are ahead for us Jamaicans. Get ready as Jamaica goes DSO and 4G LTE in the next 18 months and thus kicks it up a notch to go Supersonic, Iron Man Style!

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Lindsworth is a Radio Frequency and Generator Maintenance Technician who has a knack for writing about his work, which is in the Telecoms Engineering Field. An inspired writer on themes as diverse as Autonomous Ants simulations, Power from Lightning and the current Tablet Wars.

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